COVID-19 delayed over 30,000 tests for new drivers in the UK. Also, the government halted driving lessons to help control the spread of the virus, leading to a shortage of drivers in the country.
However, COVID-19 is not solely to blame. Brexit has also contributed to the reduction of lorry and truck drivers in the country. Thanks to Brexit, companies have reported that over 15,000 European heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers left the country last year.
Previously, drivers were required to have a community license and a standard international operator’s license to travel across EU and EAA countries. However, with the UK leaving the EU, HGV drivers could not use the EU Community License anymore. Some left the country to seek employment elsewhere, while others left the driver’s job.
Regardless of the cause of the HGV driver shortage, the effect is being felt all over the country. Currently, there is a shortage of more than 65,000 trained drivers across the country, affecting the speed and cost of delivery of products.
Some products are not getting to shelves in time. With driver shortage, it takes more time to transport some products from one point to the other. As a result, perishable goods are going bad, resulting in losses to farmers and other suppliers.
We expect to have some empty shelves in the supermarkets or food stores in the coming months. The problem is even becoming worse with the hospitality businesses having been opened recently. Also, the shortage of drivers is likely to affect the prices of certain products.
What is the way forward?
In late June, the UK government held a meeting with logistic groups, retailers, and wholesalers. The main aim was to discuss the driver shortage and find solutions to the impending crisis.
Following the meeting, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlined several potential solutions, including:
- Prioritise driving tests for HGV drivers
- Add HGV drivers on Government’s Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List
- Minimise the restrictions on HGV drivers’ working hours
- Introduce other training schemes
- Give seasonal visas to qualified HGV drivers
- Launch better working conditions for drivers.
The country is currently facing a summer of food shortage, and the government will do everything possible to solve this problem.
What does this mean to lorry drivers?
Although it is a nightmare for most UK citizens, the shortage of drivers could be a jackpot for the current and upcoming HGV drivers. Currently, HGV driver’s earnings range from £18,500 to £35,000. If the shortage persists, drivers would undoubtedly receive a pay rise to help lure more drivers into the sector. Some companies have already begun increasing the drivers’ pay across the country.
Better working conditions
Drivers are also likely to receive better working conditions under the country’s reformed rules. As stated by Defra, the restrictions on HGV drivers are likely to be minimised in the coming months.
There is a job opening for foreigners
If you’re an HGV driver and have always dreamed of working in the UK, this could be the chance for you. Among the suggested solutions includes putting the drivers on the official shortage occupation list to make it easier for foreign drivers to come to the UK.
The driver shortage is becoming a norm in the UK – and that is a problem. The number of empty shelves in supermarkets is increasing, and the cost of products is going up. The UK government understands this, which is why it held a meeting with wholesalers and retailers to discuss potential solutions. Defra suggests enhancing the HGV drivers’ working conditions and making it easy for foreign drivers to work in the UK in a bid to entice new drivers.
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